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A while back I came up with the stupidest idea for a Teen Titans series. I mean stupid in that it's an idea of complete genius, a rare beauty that flowered only once in my mind and then perished from the cold winds of the endless winter season we call modern comics. Also, who really cares what ideas some dumb comic blogger comes up with way over here in a secret corner of Japan?
But I love the original Titans so much, I wanted to try to capture a bit of the magic and fun of these old comics, updated for today's audience that doesn't exist for such things. It all started several million years ago when comic fans-- including me-- were complaining about the "Girls Gone Wild" version of Supergirl running around the DC universe and the wanton destruction of Cassandra Cain as a character for seemingly no good reason. My negative feelings got so out of hand I had to turn my thoughts to creative ventures with a positive vibe. And that's when my brain broke like the fragile egg it is and out spilled a concept for a Cass Cain/Supergirl team-up book I brilliantly called The Brave and the Bold, after the old DC team-up title. But my Cass and Supergirl were somewhat altered from the existing versions. I wanted to turn the angry teen party girl and the "I just want to be normal" cliches on their heads.
My Supergirl is incredibly smart, cheerful, helpful and endlessly idealistic-- her main flaw. Too much heart. Instead of being surly and "trying to find her way in the world" or whatever excuse writers gave for the crappy behavior of the official Supergirl, this Supergirl is one of those overworked activist type teens, interested in saving the world from itself to an unrealistic degree. In her civilian identity, she's class president, on the debate team, the yearbook staff, the art club, the math club, easily winning top honors. In her heroic guise, she flies around the world doing anything and everything to improve conditions for the downtrodden and oppressed. Not so much fighting crime as fighting a Quixotic battle for the impossible dream of our world as a love-filled utopia where no one fears for his or her life or goes to bed hungry. Superman is proud of her, but somewhat worried, too. What if she ever becomes disillusioned? What if she burns herself out? Given her emotional investment in everything she does, these are very real dangers.
It's too much for one person, even one who can fly supersonically around the world and hear a rabbit's heartbeat from a mile away. When Supergirl discovers a new Batgirl prowling around Gotham City and learns a bit about her past and her solitary ways, of course she's instantly smitten with the idea of befriending her. After all, Superman and Batman have a history of partnership. And this silent Batgirl sure could use a friend. She becomes Supergirl's latest project, but at first things don't go so well.
Batgirl in this story can speak, but English (or any kind of verbalization, for that matter) isn't her first language so she prefers not to use it unless absolutely necessary. She's kinesthetically fluent and her native tongue the Massive Beatdown dialect of the language we call Ass-Whuppin'. She's not very interested in being friends with Supergirl. She feels she doesn't need friends, especially when there are so many criminal asses out there for the kicking. In normal conversations, Batgirl's taciturn and totally lacking a sense of humor.
In all other aspects of her heroic life, she's also scarily violent. Batman likes her that way. He's taken her amazing abilities and given her a mission to which she's totally dedicated, suicidally so thanks to deep-seated feelings of guilt at having murdered a man for her biological father, David Cain. But she can't shake Supergirl and deep down, she really does crave human contact and validation of her innate goodness-- a quality she fears she lacks. So Batgirl eventually accepts the partnership.
At this point I had a huge adventure planned for the two of them that I'm not going into because I'm going to rework it for my own purposes. But believe me, it's awesome. Then I decided not to not stop there. I'd been reading the Showcase Presents The Teen Titans books-- highly recommended because they're full of Nick Cardy artwork-- and doing angry little doodles of Batgirl kicking Robin's ass in retaliation for DC's grotesque depiction of her in Robin #150 and 151. Inspiration! Yes! A team book! Wowee! That's dumb! So dumb I had to develop it even further!
I decided my dopey version of Robin needed to join the fun. He wouldn't let his adopted sister run around with Supergirl without involving himself somehow-- because he harbors unrequited love for Batgirl, who views him with contempt because he's less than half the weapon against crime she is. He's also conflicted and jealous of her. It's not that he's a terrible crime-fighter, it's just that both he and Batgirl know she's so much better. Robin has more deductive skills, but Batgirl is a whirlwind of combat capability. She may not be able to finish even the simplest crossword puzzle, but one-on-one with Robin she'd cream him in seconds flat. And that's all that matters to her.
But Robin is persistent if nothing else and they're stuck with him. Now they're a trio and no longer just The Brave and the Bold. And other young heroes are starting to notice.
Enter Wonder Girl, fresh from Paradise Island, on her first visit to the modern world. Bold, strong, fun-loving and almost completely ignorant of "appropriate" behavior, Wonder Girl enrolls at Supergirl's high school and immediately overturns the social order. She wants to participate in everything, including varsity football. One subplot has her enthusiastically joining in football practice, breaking the coach's mighty heart with her reckless playing style and open field tackling. Who is this girl? How did she learn to do that and why is she so fast and strong?
In one of my more developed sub-plots-- I even scripted several pages of it-- losses at the state level dog the coach's career. He's known locally as the man who can't win the Big One, and feels the team is perpetually one or two pieces short of that elusive perfect season. They've come so tantalizingly close so many times, he doesn't know if he can take disappointment anymore. He lobbies hard to get her onto the team, but Wonder Girl is too busy pursuing her own fun-- while she enjoys the physicality of the sport, to her mind she's already proven her superiority to the sweaty, fragile boys in their armored suits and moved onto to other flights of fancy. Music, parties and all kinds of all-ages-reader-safe hedonistic pursuits, in a joyful, infectious sort of way that wins the admiration of all who meet her. Even loner Batgirl can't help but like this crazy chica.
Eventually, I would have had Cyborg from the later Titans join along with Aqualad, Speedy, Kid Flash and the perpetually randy Changeling, who would become everyone's favorite punching bag in place of Robin, who earns some respect along the way. Other DC teen heroes as well. While they form a social network of friends and acquaintances-- some liking each other, some disliking-- they wouldn't all share every adventure, just the ones appropriate to their powers. You might have Cyborg, Speedy and Kid Flash teaming with Robin as their leader in one issue, or Batgirl and Wonder Girl in another. Sometimes Supergirl would take a number of them with her into space or to Tokyo (being a world traveler, Supergirl is something of a fashionista as well) for some kind of crazy cross-cultural adventure or wherever trouble appears.
My plan was largely to emphasize characterization over plot and fun over angst, but also to deal with serious problems on occasion, too. Work in different shades and emotional palettes as the plots demand. While the tone and the positive portrayal of the main characters-- even while poking fun at them-- would have been something of a throwback to a simpler time, the series would have also acknowledged current issues. For one thing, if I wrote a solo Cassandra Cain series, the tone would be a lot more Lady Snowblood/Battle Royale/Kill Bill than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I see her storyline as involving her death wish, her guilt, the parental issues-- the dad who raised her to kill, the mother who wants either to kill her or corrupt her-- and all sorts of horrific things. For another, Supergirl could never ignore things like drugs, depression, bullying and other issues I won't get into here. The character as I conceive her demands involvement and doesn't shy away from handling things that might be beyond even her capabilities.
Well, we'll have a robot for a king long before I get the chance to develop all these ideas. That's probably a good thing!